1. Warm-up actively before
A 10 minute active warm-up, not a passive stretch, will increase the temperature of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Tissues will become more compliant with increased temperature, helping to reduce muscle soreness and prevent injury. For a sport like tennis that demands so much lateral movement and use of the upper body, a light jog is not a sufficient warm-up. Make sure that your warm-up includes exercises such as, lateral shuffles and arm circles to properly prepare your body for the match.
2. Hydrate before and during
Remember thirst is subjective. Drink 15-20 oz. of water 2 hours before exercise, and 6-12 oz. every 15 minutes during exercise to insure proper hydration. Even mild degrees of dehydration can impair muscle and cognitive function. If you are playing tennis for 75 minutes or longer, a sports drink is recommended.
3. Start a strength and flexibility program
Muscle imbalances and lack of flexibility are risk factors for injury. The repetitive anterior movements made when playing tennis create a precarious imbalance between the anterior and posterior chains. This imbalance can be offset by implementing a resistance training program with a focus on strengthening the posterior chain, and increasing flexibility of the anterior chain. Having a strong core will also greatly reduce the risk of injury. In tennis, the core muscles are responsible for transferring power generated from the hips into the upper body. If the core is weak, you will lose power and increase the chance of lower body injuries. Core strengthening exercises have also been proven to prevent low back pain by increasing spine stability. Consult with a certified personal trainer to get started on a strength and flexibility program today!
4. Cool-down passively after
A 5-10 minute passive stretch after exercise will aid in recovery by reducing muscle soreness and stiffness. Hold each static stretch for at least 15 seconds. And remember, no bouncing! Make sure to stretch all the major muscles used during competition.
Next time you take to the courts, make sure you follow these guidelines to help you stay injury free!